The decline of The Passive Voice website

Well, it was a good run. I used to enjoy reading The Passive Voice blog for the publishing news and stuff, even the random bits that didn’t really have a lot to do with publishing or self-publishing. I have been visiting and reading the site for more than six years.

But The Passive Voice has been in decline for a while now. Of late, the blog has been awash in political wrangling and the comments a chore to read. A few frequent commenters have taken over the comments section in the last several years and their diatribes and viewpoints are just not to my taste.

It’s a chore to talk to people about things that can be divisive and come away from those conversations still friends, or at least friendly. But it’s a hell of a lot more likely to happen in a real world conversation than in an online one. Discussion of divisive topics online has become a no-go for me as I’ve realized how much of a waste of time it is. Even people who are nice, easy to talk to people in real life often act like total assholes online.

I am now saving all these types of conversations for people in the real world whom I respect or who can at least treat another human being with a bit of decency. Anyone else can stuff it.

I’ve successfully cut out the writer forums I used to visit and my enjoyment of writing and self-publishing has improved dramatically. I think it’s time to cut out The Passive Voice too.

I’m kind of thrilled by that decision. Stopping my visits to the forums has been a surprisingly effective mood booster. Even if this is just a blip compared to that, it can only help.

Well, there you go. Bye-bye KBoards

My love/hate relationship with KBoards is pretty much over. VerticalScope bought the site from the former owner and snuck in terms of use changes that I noticed and brought to the attention of the other members, and boom, explosions happened.

When all was said and done (not all has been said and done, but it’s getting there), many of the members agreed that the terms were onerous, ugly, possibly illegal (laying claim to rights VS can’t have just because you’ve posted something on the board, and then stating there’s no recourse if they misappropriate or infringe them, and other weird, overreaching, and unconscionable shit like that), and made it not worth the risk to stick around and keep posting.

I agreed, but since I’ve been mostly anonymous as a user on KB for all the years I’ve been posting there, I wasn’t worried for me. I wasn’t even worried about what VerticalScope might do with the content I still had up because most of it is very much just random comments. There’s not much there to be honest, because I delete most of my posts every year or two to keep things fresh. But then the community manager for VerticalScope, Helene, came on and acted like an asshole with no respect at all for the valid concerns of the non-anonymous members.

So I decided nope not sticking around with assholes like that in charge. Then I went in and cleaned out the 700-ish posts I did still have there.

Permission denied, VerticalScope, I do not choose to agree to your Terms of Use.

I left a few posts, ones that were relevant to the topic of the terms of use, and some in a thread I’d started recently, and that’s it. I decided not to abandon the thread I started but I won’t be posting much in it and will let it die if no one else posts. At that point, I will clear out those posts too, because I don’t like leaving loose threads behind.

Whether or not I post anything else there in the future depends entirely on what VerticalScope does or does not change. As of right now, the plan is to truly abandon KB and not go back once my own thread has died out.

In the meantime, I’ve found a different forum to use to keep up with the news I usually get from KB.

I am sad about this, despite the fact that I’ve been pretty hard on Kboards here. I really had hoped when I posted about the new Terms of Use that someone would come onto the thread and make a good case for why the changes weren’t anything to worry over. I’m disappointed it turned out to be just as ugly as my gut was telling me.

But now that this has all happened, what I really want is to take this opportunity to cut back how much reading/participating/posting I do on any publishing forum. Until I get to the point where I can reliably write my words every day and have plenty of time left over, all this other stuff is just getting in my way. :D

On that note, Leechblock is back.

For those not in the know, that’s 10 minutes total for all those sites combined, in a four hour period. You would be astounded (or maybe not) how quickly 10 minutes goes when you’re trying to read a busy thread. Yesterday I started out with a 4 minute limit and boy was that frustrating in the extreme! :D I had to ease up so that I didn’t become so frustrated that I abandoned this effort. I quite like it.

In the past, I usually turned off access to certain sites during certain times, which works not at all when you’re not tied to a writing schedule. :) I also had tried limiting myself to so much total time per day on some sites, but my personality is such that I would use all the time, then get annoyed that I couldn’t go back for the entire day. So that didn’t work, because I constantly cheated myself by pausing or resetting Leechblock.

This particular set up seems to work well with my brain. I get to look at the clock and know it’s only a few hours until I can go back if I get locked out, and that is soon enough to trick me into getting on with other things instead of dwelling on it and then ultimately cheating. :D

The news tab is even more restricted. I allow 2 minutes every 4 hours, with the intent to save anything I really want to read to Pocket. :) I do my Pocket reading when I’m really desperate for something to occupy my mind. Half the time, I delete a whole bunch of stuff unread because I’ve let it get stale and lost interest. That right there, my friends, is half the battle won. :D

Well, I’ve wasted enough of my morning writing this up, so I’m moving on to the next post about my upcoming writing sessions. See you there. :)

 

My turn to move paperbacks from CreateSpace to KDP

CreateSpace has been rolling out the migration from CreateSpace to KDP Print since sometime last week. I finally got the popup notice (although no email notifications) that I should consider moving my books.

I didn’t delay, just went ahead and clicked the “Get Started” button, because—

  1. I don’t sell oodles of paperbacks anyway, so if it messed something up I’m not losing much.
  2. I’ve heard that once the popup goes away, it’s gone for a long time.
  3. I’m impatient and I wanted it over and done with.

The migration actually seems to have gone off without a hitch. On the other hand, I haven’t examined any of the books in detail since moving them from CreateSpace to KDP.

I had to link two drafts to the ebooks, but all the other paperback books linked up on their own, matching to the correct ebooks without any trouble.

We’ll see later today or tomorrow if it actually went well, when I log in and check out the details.

I’m hesitant to do anything that’ll require me to approve a book at the moment, because if it leads me to needing to make cover or interior file adjustments, I’m not ready. I’m trying really hard to get this next book finished and don’t want to split my focus if I don’t absolutely have to.

Amazon has a help article up about the switch, and David Gaughran posted about the closing on his blog. And of course, it’s a big topic on Kboards.

Just an FYI, if you haven’t been paying attention, Kboards is under new ownership. I’m still considering how I feel about that and might use this as the push I need to cut Kboards out of my daily routine. I just need to find a replacement so I don’t feel especially cut off from news about big happenings in the SP world. Suggestions are welcome (but I don’t—and won’t—do Facebook). :D

(Facebook has rules about pseudonyms. I use pseudonyms for pretty much all my online activities. Furthermore, I have a unique name that makes it ridiculously easy to track my online activity when I don’t use a pseudonym, I hate being followed around online by Facebook, and I care about following the rules when it’s not something that’s going to hurt me. Enough said.) :-)

Corrections abound

It was late last night when I wrote all those posts about the writing of my current book, what to call a book, and the day’s progress, and I made some errors. :D

The big one, of course, is that this is not book 21 I’m working on!

This is book 19.

I’ve gone back and edited those posts to take out the wrong information. It just seemed easier that way than trying to note the corrections. :D

I messed up because I used the table I have in my spreadsheet to tell me how many books I have in each category of length: novel, novella, novelette, and short story. That table gave me 18+2=20 for the novel and novella length books.

Or so I thought.

This morning, I remembered something important about that table. It’s pulling data from my “Publish List” which includes every title I’ve published. The table is counting anything over 40,000 words as a novel and is counting a novel that I wrote well before 2012 and that’s no longer published.

I don’t want those two books to count.

The one, I didn’t write but compiled it from stories I’d already written; and the other, well, let me just say it’s old, I’m not sure it’s any good, and I was happy to unpublish it even though it did sell a copy and was one of the things that made me sure I could do this publishing thing for money. :D

Me and late nights do not agree.

So here is the correction:

I have 18 books and 12 short stories. (Between three pen names.)

The book I’m working on now is book 19.

 

Kindle Unlimited: a pirate’s treasure

Here’s a screenshot of a post on a forum. Maybe you can guess the forum, but I’m going to do the sane thing here and not mention it by name, because I’m not interested in sending goons after the bad guys and becoming a bad guy myself.

But ain’t that grand?

Personally, it’s just one of many reasons I stay far, far away from Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program.*

(Also known as: Customers ripping off authors by downloading loads of books while signed up to a three-month trial of KU costing 99¢, stripping DRM from those books, reading those books in a way that won’t register for the author’s benefit (AKA authors not getting paid for pages read, because Amazon can’t stop this or account for it because payment is based on page reads instead of something reliably easy to track like, you know, borrows…), and then keeping those books indefinitely after canceling the KU membership.)

Pirating happens, and so does stealing, if one defines this kind of thing as theft. (I do, and although there are technicalities about why this might not be actual theft, I don’t care. Thievery is as good a name for it as any as far as I’m concerned.) There’s not much an author can do about this that won’t cost more in time and effort than is lost to the pirating (and theft), so I don’t worry about it much. Just nothing to be done.

Amazon has proven they’re unwilling to do anything. They switched from a system that worked around this kind of thievery to make sure authors got paid at least for the download to a system that pays literally as little as possible and makes authors eat any losses because of badly behaving Amazon customers.

In all honesty, I probably wouldn’t let this stop me from participating in KU if there were other benefits that I was interested in, but there aren’t, so I don’t. It’s an ugly system, and I choose to stay as far away from it as I can.

As for the pirating and thievery, well, people are either willing to pay or they aren’t. The money gets too slim, they’ll have to read someone else’s books because I won’t be writing, so tough on them if they really liked what they stole. And if they didn’t like it, well, too bad so sad for them. That’s a sweet revenge of a different sort. Reading that stolen book wasted their time, and that’s something they ain’t never getting back. :D

*I did have one book in KU way back when. I won’t bore you with details here but there’s a link if you want to know more.

Amazon.co.uk is having a sale on print books that’s causing KDP to price match my ebook

I don’t know exactly what’s going on this morning with Amazon.co.uk and KDP, but I came across an odd value in my sales report from KDP for one of my books. I double checked the book on Amazon.co.uk, where the odd “royalty” came from, and realized Amazon.co.uk is price matching one of my books. The problem is, there’s no lower price anywhere for that ebook.

After a few clicks around the page, I found what I think is the root issue.

Amazon.co.uk appears to be having a sale on the paperback for this book, offering it at a significant discount—but only with orders of at least £10.00 of books.

Screenshot from the Amazon.co.uk web page for one of my books. Notice the price? Yeah, that’s a price match to the paperback.

Yay for them for having a sale.

Not so much yay for me.

I’m the one taking the hit on royalties earned for every sale of this book well in excess of what I’d make up for in volume because of the lower price, for a price match that isn’t even a real price match, because (1) they’re matching a paperback price and (2) the only way to get the low price is to buy £10.00 worth of books.

I have to say, I become less enamored by Amazon every year. Of course, I was part of the Amazon affiliate program well before I started publishing my books through KDP, so I never had a lot of the warm fuzzies for them as a business associate to begin with.

Still, every little blow just hardens my heart against them that much more.

Because this? Is not cool.

Pen name ethics

There’s been some grumbling on Kboards about pen names and personas that has struck a chord with me. I use pen names and I don’t think anything is wrong with that. I don’t have a problem with anyone choosing to use them, for whatever reason they want to use them.

But I do have qualms about the use of personas. They ring of sock puppets and scam tactics to me, and although maybe that’s not how the authors who use them think of them, I can’t help but find it distasteful and deceptive.

On the one hand, making up a name doesn’t seem so different than making up a dog you don’t have. But to me, I do think of those things differently. When I interact with people, that fake name doesn’t really mean anything. I still interact with people as myself, even if it’s only using select attributes of myself.

Say I’m shy in real life (I’m not that shy, mostly standoffish, which is actually quite different). But say I am. I might dig deep and pull from the part of me that isn’t as shy and give myself permission to be more outgoing and brave with other people while interacting under the name of my pen name.

That kind of thing just doesn’t feel deceptive to me. That’s me behaving differently because of who I’m interacting with. I could choose to interact that way as me or as my pen name and no one would think much of it.

But if I give myself a fake dog, when I interact with others, if I choose to use my real name, then the people that know me are going to know I’m lying. Just because I choose to interact under a different name, a pen name, doesn’t mean I’m not lying any less.

So, no, I’m not supportive of authors who create entire personas that are fake. I just don’t think it’s right to do that kind of thing and present it as fact. It’s lying. It’s deception. It’s lying and deception meant for personal gain.

The thing about author bios is that it’s not generally accepted that they’re going to be fake. People, in general, expect bios to be genuine. When they’re not, it breaks a trust with the reader. I care about that. I don’t want any readers of mine to ever be able to come to me and say I lied to them or deceived them about who I am.

I hold back a lot in my bios. That’s because I’m not willing to lie about who I am, but I’m also not willing to give everything about myself away to people I don’t know. Personas are a way of trying to have it both ways.

There are authors I’ve read and loved in the past that I don’t read anymore because of this kind of thing. I have no interest in supporting people who enjoy deceiving others or who are willing to deceive others because they think it gives them an edge in whatever market they’re in. The thing about those kind of people is that they don’t care. They’ll probably never care. But I don’t have to like or support them.

Marketing has a bad reputation because of people who’ll do anything to make a sale. In my mind, I have no doubt that authors who adopt actual personas with made up details about their lives are some of those people.

Not so bad? WTF

I was reading this blog post on book stuffing this morning (and it’s a good one) and came to the screenshots that included comments someone had made in the Chance Carter Diamond Group.

Mind blown.

Why? Because I don’t understand who would look at that list of instructions on how to do the KU Flip and actually think anyone is worth that kind of time investment.

I understand there are people out in the world who feel entitled to steal other people’s time while providing nothing of real value in return, just so they can make a few extra dollars off each one. I do.

But I don’t understand why people value themselves so little that they would actually let it happen. It’s worth it for a free book? A chance at a prize? You’ve got to be kidding me.

And then to think that this character—this person—is already making thousands every month and these readers are giving up time—something that you never, ever get back—to give this person another $12-15 for a KU read? Ugh. Fuck that.

Inherently selfish people have no trouble taking advantage of givers. These poor givers are giving and giving, and this dude is just taking and taking and taking.

The only way this makes sense to me is if it’s all just a big pyramid scheme and the used are hoping to become the users at some point and recoup their investment. But that’s not what I’m hearing. These are readers, who’ve been drawn in by this person’s persona, and who choose to let themselves be used in this way.

I’m sad that I don’t really believe in karma in this life. Maybe in the next.

Less work, more fun with paperback formatting

I’m working on a paperback today. I plan to get back to writing today (was supposed to do that days and days ago, but you know how that goes!) but first I want to finish up the interior formatting for the last release I did.

It’s a little tricky because it’s the longest book I’ve done to date, and I chose a 5 x 8 size for this series a long time ago and don’t want to change that. I also don’t want to go too small on the fonts, so I suffer with higher prices for the books and don’t worry about it. :-)

The paperbacks are more for me anyway just because I like having them.

On that note, I’m playing around with some stuff and have finally figured something out that’s been hindering me from having a basic template file that I can paste my manuscript into for an even easier paperback creation.

If you use section breaks in your manuscript (I do), you must delete them before you copy and paste the text into the template.

If you don’t delete the section breaks, your page layout formatting carries over into the template, messing everything up. I’ve tried this many times over the years and never could understand why it happened. I should have tried searching a little more diligently for the answer but I had fallen into the habit of formatting my paperback from scratch every time instead. I mean, I always tried at least once to copy and paste the text, but I had always given up after that and got on with the formatting.

That’s no longer necessary, because once I deleted the section breaks, the formatting didn’t carry over and my template held onto its page layout formatting for the whole document. Excellent news for me! :-)

Also excellent news is that I don’t actually need those section breaks since I gave up uploading Word docs to vendors (except for Smashwords) a long time ago. I make an EPUB in Jutoh, which testing shows puts page breaks where I want them anyway.

So one less step in my formatting process for the next book/story.

I’m going to test Smashwords on this too, with my next book. I do not yet know for certain that my page breaks will appear where I want them even without me putting them in manually, but I’ll find out. (Apparently the TOC is supposed to tell Smashwords where to insert page breaks but I don’t know for certain it’ll happen for all the formats Smashwords generates.)

If the page breaks don’t appear, I can add the “page break before” option to the heading 1 style in Word and manually insert the one other page break I need (between the title page and the copyright page, which I do not put at the end of the book because I don’t like it there).

Finally, I’m also playing around with Libre Writer for this paperback. Already I’ve discovered one thing it does that Word does not that I like very much. Libre Writer has a book layout view, much like Adobe Reader does. Word does not.

What makes this so awesome is that I can see the spreads (left and right pages side by side) as they’ll appear in the book. Word doesn’t give me that view and it can be a pain sometimes to notice where the blank pages are supposed to be but maybe aren’t.

Anyway, back to the fun stuff. :-) I’ll have an interior for this paperback before lunch if all goes well. :-) (I might still be tweaking it at that point, for margins and then hyphenation issues, but that’s just because I’m picky.)

So that three hours? More like twenty

It feels like Saturday. No idea why.

I’m still feeling a little under the weather here, and I’ve had so much coffee and tea today that I’m also wired up like a piano. Or maybe it’s just that I’ve drank too much too close together, because when I add up the volume, I realize I’ve actually had less than yesterday or the day before.

I did finish the book cover. Or the multiple book covers, I should say. Instead of taking three hours, it took about twenty. If I trim out the time for breaks and stuff once I stopped using the timer, I’d still say it took fifteen or more. I did not take breaks yesterday or this morning until I was so desperate for one I couldn’t have made it another minute without one.

This is one of the hazards of hyperfocus. I don’t enjoy it and it wears me out in a way flow (or being “in the zone”) doesn’t. Don’t ask me if it’s real; all I know is it feels real to me. I almost never feel good about it once I realize what I’m doing, because in the end I give up feeling like I’m in control of myself and my actions.

Maybe continuing with the timers would have helped—I don’t really know—but by the last three sessions I was just clicking OK + Restart Timer and going again the minute it dinged.

I wrote cover copy today, and spent almost four hours on it. It’s like I’m going for records for everything with this book, but in all the wrong ways. Cover copy is usually something I’m pretty quick with. Not today. I still don’t have it right. I can feel it.

But, on to other things for a little while. I have a book to read and edit that I should get started on, and I haven’t written 500 words a day in a couple of days, either. Ugh. Not feeling up to it tonight at all. I might just go to bed early.

Designing a book cover and fighting perfectionism

I’m working on a cover design today. I’m really not good at managing my time when I do this so I’m experimenting today in the hopes of keeping the time down to something reasonable.

Usually I just dig in and start playing with backgrounds, trying to come up with a composite I like. Today, I’m setting my timers up to work for me.

I’m going to design in half hour blocks. I’ve picked that length for the blocks because six of them make three hours, and each one is short enough that if I’ve let myself fall into a black hole of perfectionism, I can stop it before it consumes my entire day.

I really don’t want this cover to take all day. I have a headache, I’m tired and maybe a little sick, and I want to feel productive today.

I don’t feel productive when I get stuck in a loop of tweaks that almost invariably takes me back to where I started. :-)

I’m going record what I did during each half hour block so I can see if there’s something I can learn from this experiment.

Now, to be frank, my last few covers have taken significantly longer than three hours to create, so I’m not cutting myself off at three hours, just seeing how close I can get to done in that amount of time.

It’s not a lie that constraints and boundaries can boost creativity. I’ve experienced it firsthand many times. I’m hoping it will help today. ;-)

I’ll be using GIMP today. Version 2.8.22. It’s open source and free. I generally use stock photography, which I’ll most definitely be using today, and most of it comes from Dreamstime, all properly licensed. (I keep the license information, and if you use stock, you should too, because sometimes the stock disappears from the site and it can be challenging to find the license information after that—speaking from experience!)

First, I’m starting from the base of my last cover, which already has the fonts I need and the alignments for the typography in it.

Second, I’m going to start looking for a background I like.

Third, I’ll do whatever I have to do to blend some stuff together and make it unique and pretty and (hopefully) pop off the screen without being garish.

Fourth, I’ll try to get the type to look nice.

Fifth, I’ll crop and save the sizes I need.

I’m not allotting any of these tasks to any particular time slot, just laying them out so I can see what I need to do. :-)

Now. Time for that first timer.

 

And that answers that question about my paperback covers at CreateSpace

Got this just a short while ago:

Congratulations!

Your interior and cover files for xxxxxxxxxxxxx, #xxxxxxxx meet our technical requirements for printing.

The next step in the publishing process is to proof your book:

FOLLOW THIS LINK TO GET STARTED:

Which I assume means the embedded fonts in the paperback cover are A-okay.  There was no additional message about corrections made for me, on my behalf, or anything like that, so this answers the question of whether or not the PDF cover files would be accepted by CreateSpace with fonts embedded instead of being flattened into the image. Should’ve guessed, really, but I just wasn’t sure.

I’ll be ordering a proof to check this out and compare the quality of print to the covers I didn’t embed fonts for (sending only a flattened image PDF to CreateSpace), and scouring over the digital proof from CreateSpace. If the quality of the text appears better, I’ll definitely be doing this extra step from now on. If it isn’t any better, then I’ll just use GIMP, and only add Elements into the mix when I need to use a font that brings out that unfortunate GIMP text rendering (?) bug.

Also, I discovered something with this round of paperback creation. I’ve consistently had a problem with my PDF cover as exported from GIMP having a transparency that CreateSpace fixes for me. I’ve not had that problem this time. The difference? This time when GIMP popped up the little message during the PDF export, I unchecked all the little boxes for things GIMP was offering to do for me during the export. And now, no transparency warnings from CreateSpace for the three covers I exported directly to PDF from GIMP. Pretty happy to have figured that out. I was exporting a completely flattened image to PDF so there shouldn’t have ever been any transparency anyway, but obviously something GIMP was doing during the export on my behalf was creating it.

I am not going to finish those paperbacks today

Dang it. I’m not going to finish those paperbacks today. I got caught up with tweaking the look of the interior and spent too much time on the cover of one of them today (perfectionism is a trap), and here it is just about bedtime for me (oh, my tired eyes!) and I’ve submitted the files for only one paperback today.

So 2 down and 5 to go. Except I’ve realized that I still need to correct a book I found an error in a few weeks ago, so that means 6 to go. But that one doesn’t need a cover, just a few changes to the interior.

I’m very close to finishing a second tonight, and I think I’ll try to get it submitted before I call it a night. The other paperbacks are just going to have to wait. I want to do some writing tomorrow before I come back to them, maybe in the later afternoon. We’ll see.

I definitely want to wrap these up ASAP, because they’re one of the few things left that I need to do sooner rather than later, and when I’m done with them, I can truly focus for a while on just writing my books.

Paperbacks are taking longer than I had hoped

I finished one paperback today.

Meaning I have 6 to go.

:o

Here’s what went wrong. My paperback style set didn’t work. I’m not sure if I didn’t finish it, or what, but when I applied it to the document, only a few basic styles changed and the rest just kind of … broke. I don’t really know of a better way to explain it.

So instead of getting frustrated and trying to create a new style set (which was my first inclination), I just made manual adjustments to the styles, got everything the way I wanted it, and then saved over the old style set with the new ones.

It’ll either work or it won’t, but I got one paperback done today and that’s all I care about.

While I was doing all that, I used OneNote to create step-by-step list of what I need to do to make sure I don’t forget anything during the formatting.

Now, I’m calling it a night. I got up way to early again today and I’m too tired to stay up. :)

CreateSpace cover template generator at Bookow

I meant to publish this a few days ago when I was in the midst of working on my paperbacks. I tested the Bookow CreateSpace cover template generator and I really like it.

The templates are similar to the CreateSpace templates, but they’re an exact fit for CreateSpace book covers. CreateSpace itself doesn’t generate templates that are an exact fit, so I have a spreadsheet that does it for me. CreateSpace’s own templates are done in batches of 10 pages, so they’re close, but not exact.

My spreadsheet came up with 3268.5 x 2475 as the dimensions I need for my cover. Rounded, that’s 3269 x 2475 at 300 ppi.

Bookow generated a template sized 3269 x 2475 for my book.

Spot on. :D

That was for the PNG file. The PDF file when opened in GIMP came up short after setting it to 300 ppi. However, that might be a quirk I just don’t know how to deal with, and I never use the PDF anyway, only the PNG, even from the CreateSpace generated templates. So there you go.

The Bookow page also has a few other resources on that page that are useful, including the ISBN-13 hyphenator, which I had fun with.

How I format paperbacks in Word

Despite needing to write today, I’m fighting with myself to get started, so I’ve decided to take advantage and put myself to work doing something else: formatting paperbacks!

So this is my plan for today: I want to try to get as many of the paperbacks I’ve been needing to format as possible done by lunch. In fact, that’s my challenge for today!

I like to use Microsoft Word to format my paperbacks. The thing is, I tried Adobe InDesign and I just don’t like working with it. The learning curve is steep, and although there are tutorials, I know Word, I like Word, and I’m comfortable with it. And I’m pretty happy with how my paperbacks have turned out over the years, so that’s what I’m going to stick with.

First I have to commit to the size I want for my paperbacks. That’s going to be easy for the pen name series because I used 5.5 x 8.5 and I loved it. (If you follow the link, be sure to set zoom to 100%.) For all my other paperbacks, I format for the 5 x 8 paperback size.

I do want to reformat my previous paperbacks to the 5.5 x 8.5 size too, but first I’m going to test it with my shortest novel to see if I can make it look good and still reach a page length that will allow a spine, because there is a limit under which CreateSpace will not allow you to put spine text on a book. First I’ll focus on margins and leading, then I’ll pad with some ads for the follow up books if I have to, using the advertisements in some published books from my bookshelves as a model, or a chapter or two excerpt of the next book. I want that spine text. A book just doesn’t look professional without it.

Reformatting the rest of the books will probably have to wait, but I can go ahead and put the new books in the larger format if I decide the test book looks good. Things will be inconsistent for a while, but if I commit to the new size, I’ll make an effort to get the older books reformatted ASAP.

Here’s the deal:

I do not have templates for this. I’ve discovered that copying and pasting by chapter takes too long. Anything else, and I end up with strange formatting issues I have to fix. For example, when I copy and paste the entire document into the template, my section breaks cause some pages to revert to 8.5 x 11 and then I have to fix that.

If I save an intermediate version, strip the section breaks, then put them back in once I’m in the template, well, that takes time and is as tedious as anything else, so why bother?

Here’s what I do instead.

I save a copy of my master file.

I adjust the page setup, including margins, section starts, and paper size.

I change the document’s style set to my paperback style set. I try to stay consistent across every book with my styles, because this part doesn’t work so well if I don’t. My master document is set to use my ebook style set. The change to the paperback style set applies justification, font sizes, line spacing (leading), and other formats I need specific to what I want for my paperbacks. This means I don’t have to do a lot of settings adjustments for my chapter text. It all happens automatically as soon as I change the style set. It also means I don’t have to remember what all those little tweaks are and that’s good too.

I turn on hyphenation.

I add headers, alternating the page number, my author name, and the book title for odd and even pages. I don’t use footers.

I adjust the settings to eliminate headers on blank pages and the first page of every chapter.

I double check that the headers are correct for every chapter! This is important because I recently discovered I missed a chapter in one of my (published) books and for one chapter, and one chapter only, the header has a different book’s title in it. :o (It’ll make for an interesting first edition if I ever get famous enough to have people looking for them, right?) But that’s something I need to correct, and I’m planning to do that when I reformat.

I add the flourishes to the chapter headings, scene breaks, and first lines.

At this point, I’m almost done.

It wasn’t always this way. There was a time when I worried excessively about widows and orphans because I preferred even page spreads (the same number of lines on facing pages) and I spent days making minor adjustments on every page to force the text to flow in a way that eliminated them. But after a few years of this and a hard look at the cost versus profit of doing these paperbacks, I decided I was going to give that up. Now I have widows and orphans turned on in Word for my chapter paragraphs in my paperback style set. I do end up with some pages having fewer lines than others but it’s a reasonable trade off for the time saved and the money earned from these books. And picky as I am, I honestly don’t find that it’s that noticeable at all.

I double and triple check everything, tweak as necessary, and then I’m done.

I print to a PDF file.

I don’t save to a PDF because Word can’t embed Open Type fonts into PDFs.

Then I look everything over again.

I upload to CreateSpace, confirm the number of pages, and start on my paperback cover. :)

***Well. This challenge didn’t go well. I worked all day on one paperback, and spent the rest of the day wallowing in indecision as I tried to make myself commit to a font size reduction to make my paperbacks more affordable and a trim size change for the same reason.

I finally decided to embrace the font size change, because I’m just going from 12 to 11.5. Despite how agonizing it feels to give up the generous size as a cost saving measure, I realize on a rational level that it’s not that big a deal. The font size is still significantly larger than most of the books on my shelves and is a reasonable size.

As for the trim size? I can’t do it. I’ve decided not to change. The pen name books will stay 5.5 x 8.5 while the other books will stay 5 x 8. Maybe someday I’ll change my mind, but not today. In all honesty, it’s because I kind of like this size best when I’m holding the books. On the other hand, it’s also a damn lot of work and I’m just not ready to tackle it. Too many books to redo!

Now, I’m moving on.

I’m giving this up for the night and writing tomorrow. I’ll pick up the paperbacks again only after I’ve made some significant progress on my book.

How I’m building my new pen name: Eighteen months (and two books) in

I have a pen name I’m hoping to build into a nice second earner. Some diversification if you want to call it that to keep me from relying on only one genre to keep me afloat and happy as a writer.

The only problem is that I’ve written so much slower than I had planned to write that the pen name has suffered—a lot.

My main focus has always been my main pen name, and I don’t ever see that changing. Those are the books I most want to write. I really want to write this pen name series too, but the drive just isn’t as strong as it is for some of my other series. And there’s the fact that the other series pay the bills, so I also have to take that into consideration.

Since I don’t do promotions* as a general rule, my promotion of choice has always been to write more books. It’s a great strategy if you have a series, and I have multiple series. Every time I release a new book in a series, I get sales of the previous books and some crossover sales of my other series too. So it works.

But you’ve got to release books!

I’ve released exactly two books for this pen name since I began this experiment back in June 2015. :o

I released book two a full year after book one. It looks like book three is going to be eight months behind book two. Releasing this slowly isn’t going to generate momentum. I know this, and my earnings for the series prove it.

On the other hand, I have earned some money on these two books even if it’s not a lot, and I’m quite happy about that. I do believe if I could speed up releases, the series might do all right in the long term.

So that’s something I’m hoping for in 2017. To write more of these books and see if it helps earnings. I love this series and I don’t want to have to ignore it just so I don’t go broke.

The details

I pulled the first book out of KDP select the moment I knew about when I’d be releasing the second book.

When I released the second book, it was DOA on Amazon. I was disappointed. I’d hoped for more.

Going wide with both books at once did generate some momentum on Apple and I sold a few copies there.

I really did intend to experiment with price on these books when I started this experiment but I just haven’t done it. I might still do it when I release book three.

The numbers

(I’ll have to consolidate all my reports of individual title sales into one, which I haven’t done yet, because it’s going to be so much work. I really never thought I’d need that much detail…)

*** I’m back! That took a long time! (Two entire days, to be exact.) I’m not breaking sales down by date, just by title, because anything more is just more trouble than it’s worth when working with so many different vendors.

*** In fact, adding up sales for the titles is more trouble than it’s worth—because I’m not really interested in those numbers even now that I’ve done it through the end of 2016. I don’t think I’ll update the spreadsheet going forward. I just don’t care about title sales. Nothing in the report surprised me. My brain has obviously been doing just fine consolidating the information I see in my sales reports and keeping me informed in a general sort of way about the profitability of my various series.

Sales of the pen name books for 2015 & 2016

Book One 984.29
Book Two 371.70
Series Total Earnings 1,355.98

There are a few numbers that aren’t in yet, but any changes to these numbers for the end part of 2016 will be minor.

As for expenses, all I have invested in these books are my time and skill, some stock art, and the domain fee for the pen name website.

Not sure I’ll bother with another update unless (until) the pen name takes off (a thought I haven’t given up on at all). I just need to write more to get there!

*I hate promoting. If it ever becomes 100% necessary to success, I guess my writing career is going to bite the dust, because I’m just not interested.

Smashwords is finally about to start paying monthly

Some good news from Smashwords to end the year:

Smashwords Plans for 2017

In broad strokes, below is what you can expect from Smashwords in the coming year.  If some of this looks familiar to our goals for 2016 (most of which we met), it’s because some of these items below will remain persistent themes for us for many years to come:

  • Faster payment cycles – January will be our last quarterly payment round, after which Smashwords is going monthly starting in February.  Yay!

Yay is right. I distribute to Apple through Smashwords, although the day might come when I’ll decide to buy a Mac and go direct (or Apple will finally get a clue and realize they should stop making it so difficult for authors to publish on their platform!) and I sell a few books through OverDrive and LibraryDirect and from the Smashwords’ store itself.

After the mess with All Romance Ebooks, I’ll be glad—ecstatic really—to finally be receiving monthly payouts from all the distributors/retailers I use.

Links and a comment about All Romance Ebooks

This morning I spent a bit of time reading up on the All Romance Ebooks closing. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned, but I’ve decided to ignore the settlement offer of .10 on the dollar for the $780 I’m owed. On the other hand, I’m still undecided* if I’ll bother pursuing the issue, because I know how that will interfere with my ability to concentrate on what’s important to me in 2017. The world is full of thieves, but it’s also full of really good people, and I just don’t know that I have time to bother with the thieves for that amount of loss. If it had been more money, my reaction I’m sure would be different. But I admit to a feeling of apathy about the money, and maybe that’s a sign that I really do need to concentrate on other things for the moment.

Besides, by not taking the settlement, until or unless ARe goes into bankruptcy, they’ll continue to owe me that money and I’ll continue to be able to go after it at a later date.

Here are some links related to the issue:

December 31, 2016 (Kristine Kathryn Rusch @ Patreon) Business Musings: All Romance Ebooks & Visions of The Future: Part One

December 30, 2016 (Writer Beware) All Romance eBooks’ Sudden Closing: Many Questions, Few Answers

December 30, 2016 (BlogCritics) Court Documents Regarding All Romance E-Books’ Disturbing Business Practices Surface

December 29, 2016 (BlogCritics) Publisher All Romance Ebooks: Closing Hits New Low In Stealing From Authors

December 28, 2016 (The Digital Reader) All Romance eBooks is Shutting Down (I’m the unattributed quote! I don’t remember ever being quoted before, so that’s funny.)

December 28, 2016 (Romance Writers of America) All Romance eBooks Closing Dec. 31

In several comments and articles, people mention the site being down, but I haven’t had any problems getting into ARe’s website. The first day there was a bit of slowness, but it has come up every time for me since. And of course, I downloaded my spreadsheet of sales the moment I received the email and it matched the monthly reports I download, so nothing had changed for me as some people have reported happening to them. In fact, I’ve just gone and made a screenshot now and it still shows the same amount due.

If I come across any more interesting news about it, I’ll update this post instead of writing a new one.

*In the time since I posted this, I’ve decided to accept this loss and move on. I just don’t believe I’ll ever collect enough to make it worth my time or energy to even try. Now that 2017 is here, I’m turning my attention to making 2017 an awesome year for my writing and my income.

All Romance Ebooks is closing, and despite losing money I’m owed, I’m not that sad about it

As a general rule, I prefer to not spend a lot of my time letting negative thoughts go round and round in my head, mostly because I tend toward obsession and I don’t want to obsess over negative thoughts!

So here are some not so negative things about the All Romance Ebooks closing.

I’m going to shave anywhere from 1 to 3 hours off my total publishing time for every book I publish.

  • 5 to 10 minutes to make a wider cover (1:1.5 vs. 1:1.6) that I have to shrink to 200 x 300
  • 30 to 60 minutes formatting a copy of my master book file for PDF
  • 5 minutes to generate a custom sized cover image for the PDF file (because I always forget to export this image when I’m exporting my usual sizes)
  • 10 to 20 minutes importing my EPUB from Jutoh into Calibre, making some tweaks, and exporting as a MOBI
  • 30 minutes actually publishing the files to ARe

If there are issues, or I get caught up in what I’m doing, all these things can take longer. :)

And now I don’t have to do any of those things!

I need only EPUB files and my Word file for everywhere else. Smashwords uses doc files instead of docx, but I use the same file, make a quick save as doc, add one line to note it’s the Smashwords edition, and save again. I do nothing else to my file for Smashwords.

So getting rid of ARe is a real boon to my process.

One more vendor who pays only quarterly is gone.

I hate having to deal with payments like that in my sales spreadsheet, because it’s monthly, and ARe is always off by pennies and I have to make adjustments that annoy me because they aren’t right.

My cover design process just got easier!

I don’t have to worry about making my covers wide enough for the 1:1.5 200 x 300 covers I needed for ARe.

I’ve been designing my covers to the 1:1.6 ratio from the beginning and I like them. That size looks best to me on all my differently sized reading devices and apps, but I always had to make the 1:1.5 covers for ARe because I couldn’t stand stretching the covers and making them look misshapen.

In fact, I’m thinking about using this opportunity to revisit my cover template.

I’m pretty happy about all these things, to be honest. :)